Thursday, 4 September 2008

Reporter Arrested over Murder Story

The Irrawaddy News

A reporter for a leading Rangoon journal was arrested on Monday after being summoned and rebuked by the authorities last week for reporting on the murder of a couple in Rangoon’s Thingangyun Township.

Police from Kyauktada Township in Rangoon arrested Saw Myint Than, the chief reporter for the Flower News Journal, on Monday night and is now holding him at the local police station, according to sources.

Saw Myint Than was reportedly charged with at least three offences, including violations of Section 17/A of the Electronics Act, which bans contact with organizations deemed to be unlawful, and Article 124/A of the Criminal Code, which forbids expressions of disrespect towards the government.

Last week's Tuesday, Saw Myint Than was summoned by police and threatened with arrest for reporting on the murder. He was also warned that the journal’s publishing license could be revoked.

“His situation is not good,” said a journalist in Rangoon. “It is like the authorities have lost patience and have done this to make an example of him.”

Another journalist said that Saw Myint Than was accused of spreading rumors after reports of his interrogation by the police last week appeared in the Burmese exiled media. Officials reportedly asked him if he was working for The Irrawaddy, which is based in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

His story about the murder passed through the military regime’s censorship board, the Press Scrutiny and Registration Division, and was also published in other journals, including Weekly Eleven and Voice Weekly.

It is common practice in Burma for news of crimes written by independent reporters to be censored. All stories in the print media must pass through the censorship office.

Meanwhile, several journalists in Rangoon confirmed that the Burmese authorities have tightened restrictions on access to government ministries. According to sources, journalists who visit government offices are now required to provide detailed information about who they are working for.

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